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British Columbia Ancient Forests News
Rollover Legislation: Claims and Facts
Bob Simpson MLA Cariboo North, March 4, 2013
The government and the Minister of Forests continue to spread disinformation about the forestry rollover legislation that was introduced this month. You can read the proposed law for yourself here, in Section 24.
During a February 28th interview, Minister Thomson made the following claims:
“Clearly in that legislation we’ve talked about the process. We’ve talked about the need for public consultation that’s embedded in the legislation. We’ve talked about that this would only occur when it is in the public interest. It would be by invitation, so it’s not a de facto privatization. And it responds to the recommendations of the mid-term timber supply committee report that have clearly said we need to look at increasing the diversity of area-based management. There are significant benefits to area-based management in terms of investments in forest management, increasing fibre supply, and we think this is one of the tools that will assist in addressing the mid-term timber supply needs.”
I’ve responded to the government and minister’s statements below.
1. Claim: This legislation comes as a direct result of a recommendation by the Special Committee on Timber Supply.
Fact: There was no such recommendation. The Timber Supply Committee gave cautionary recommendations “if conversion to more area-based tenures is desirable.”
2. Claim: This legislation is about increasing the diversity of area-based tenures, like community forests, woodlots and First Nations tenures.
Fact: It’s about conversion of one specific type of volume-based license, called a replaceable forest license, to a specific type of area-based tenure, a Tree Farm License (TFL). The majority of the volume held under these licenses is in the control of five major forest products companies.
The government already has the ability to create more community forests, First Nations area-based tenures, and woodlots. It still hasn’t met its stated 2003 objective of having these types of tenures comprise 10 per cent of the province-wide annual allowable cut.
3. Claim: Area-based tenures result in better forest management.
Fact: Area-based tenures may result in better forest management, but it’s not necessarily the case, because area-based tenure holders only have to meet the minimum requirements of the Forest Act. There are no legal requirements for companies to manage their forests to a higher standard.
There has not been a definitive assessment of whether the public forest land base is actually better managed under a TFL. In fact, the worst managed public forest in BC has historically been TFL #1, on the north coast.
4. Claim: Area-based tenures will increase mid-term timber supply.
Fact: There is no evidence to support this claim. Some TFLs have improved their silviculture investments enough to warrant an increase in their AAC. However, many TFLs have seen their AACs reduced, and those that are able to demonstrate an improvement in timber volume get to cut that volume today based on their projected results for future improvements in forest growth. These projections do not account for climate change, fire, pests, and disease, which could wipe out any incremental gains.
5. Claim: There will be public consultation.
Fact: There is no public consultation required by law at any point in the rollover process. The only requirement is to make an accepted proposal “available” for public comment for a period of not less than 60 days. This is a passive process that does not compel the applicant to actively notify and engage First Nations, local governments, other licensees, and community stakeholders.
6. Claim: First Nations will be consulted.
Fact: The maps for new TFLs will be drawn by the applicants and negotiated in secret with the Minister. There is no legal requirement for direct pre- or post-consultation with First Nations. This omission will likely trigger “duty to consult” litigation against both the legislation and any applications made under the legislation
7. Claim: The public interest will be protected.
Fact: There is no “public interest” definition in the legislation. No requirements for investment, job creation, mills to be built, or incremental forest management. The government press release promises the public will be consulted this summer before the legislation is used in order to “refine” the policy around public interest. However, as the Auditor General’s report on the release of private lands from existing TFLs clearly points out, the government did not protect the public interest in that case, and public interest policy can be adapted without any public consultation.
8. Claim: This legislation simply enables the minister to invite replaceable license holders to apply for an area-based tenure. There is no government policy to rollover replaceable forest licenses to TFLs.
Fact: This same rationalization was used when the government changed the Forest Act to allow the removal of private lands from TFLs. After the first application to remove private lands form a TFL was approved, successive applications resulted in the removal of virtually all of the private lands in TFLs province-wide. The Auditor General’s report on private land removals concluded that the public interest was not protected in this process.
9. Claim: The invitation to apply will be publicly advertised according to a prescribed process and will lay out the criteria for a successful application.
Fact: The prescribed process and criteria are not in law. In most TSAs, only one or two major companies hold most of the available volume in their replaceable forest licenses, and only they would be eligible to submit a proposal in the first place.
10. Claim: This legislation is not “privatization” of our public forests.
Fact: TFLs give exclusive rights to private companies over a defined area (or areas) of our public forest land. Once awarded, the minister has virtually no oversight or input into the sale of TFLs, and there are no public consultation requirements or First Nation consultation requirements when TFLs change hands. Foreign state-owned entities are able to buy TFLs without notice to the public or any public input. In fact, a Chinese business person who purchased TFL #1 is under scrutiny in China for defrauding the Chinese government when he purchased Skeena Cellulose and the licenses associated with that mill.
TFLs are no longer taken back if processing facilities are sold, and they can be managed to minimum standards without penalty. TFL #47 formerly fed mills in the Campbell River area, but those mills are closed. The TFL is now primarily logged for log exports, and the TFL is owned by a pension fund.
If government wants to take back areas of a TFL in order to protect other values, create parks, settle land claims, or attract investment for other timber or non-timber economic activity, compensation to TFL holders is significantly higher because of the exclusive territorial rights awarded to the license holder. In short, we have to buy back our public forests from TFL licensees, just as if we were purchasing private land.
11. Claim: This legislation is about mid-term timber supply and community stability.
Fact: This legislation is about Burns Lake and Hampton Affiliates. Hampton Affiliates is an Oregon-based company that was a member of the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports in the US, which received money from the $1 billion the US Government took from Canadian companies when the Harper government signed the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement. Hampton is potentially facing charges under the Workers’ Compensation Act for the events leading up to the explosion of the Babine Forest Products Mill. The government started promising Hampton Affiliates a TFL as early as April 2012, long before the Timber Supply Committee was struck.
The Minister promised to introduce this legislation for Hampton in a letter of intent he wrote to the company in September 2012:
“We will bring legislation to the House at the next session. Conversion of Babine Forest Products licenses will be one of the first priorities for implementation under any resultant legislation. Babine has submitted a proposal for an area based tenure in historic Babine operating areas and we would expect a portion or portions of this area to be included in the area based licence that would be offered to Babine. The total area that would be offered will be commensurate with the proportion of cut held by Hampton.”
This legislation was created for the wrong reasons, without proper consultation, and the law itself does not provide the protections the government and minister say it does. There are only two weeks in which the law could be debated and passed. If it comes before the House again, I will stand up and fight this bill.
Please also see Bob’s media release on this subject.